The Kite Runner

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Themes and Colors
Betrayal Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
Fathers and Children Theme Icon
Violence and Rape Theme Icon
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Politics and Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Kite Runner, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Violence and Rape Theme Icon

Rape occurs several times in The Kite Runner as the ultimate act of violence and violation (short of murder) that drastically changes the lives of both the characters and the country. The central act of the novel is Amir watching Hassan’s rape by Assef. There are more peripheral instances of rape as well – it is implied that Kamal, one of Hassan’s tormentors, was raped by soldiers, and Baba saves a woman from being raped by a Russian soldier. Both these examples link the theme with the “rape” of Afghanistan by violence and war, beginning with the external Russian oppressors, then the bloody infighting of different Afghan groups, and then the brutal Taliban regime.

The rape of Sohrab is never shown, but it reflects Hassan’s horror and his role as a “sacrificial lamb” – but with Sohrab, unlike Hassan, Amir is finally able to stand up to Assef and prevent more violence. As Baba told the young Amir, the only real crime is theft, and rape is a theft of safety and selfhood, the ultimate violence and violation, and in The Kite Runner this brutality is inflicted upon both individual characters and the country of Afghanistan.

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Violence and Rape ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Violence and Rape appears in each chapter of The Kite Runner. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Violence and Rape Quotes in The Kite Runner

Below you will find the important quotes in The Kite Runner related to the theme of Violence and Rape.
Chapter 1 Quotes

That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes from the opening lines of the book, which Hosseini introduces by immediately looking back into the past and examining how the past has affected the present. Amir offers no explanation of the "alley" he is thinking about yet, but later on in the book we will learn that he is haunted by the alley where he watched Hassan being raped by Assef—the place of his first great betrayal, Amir feels. None of this is clear yet, except for the idea that things we try to forget never really go away. The past is always there, lingering just under the surface of the present—one of Hosseini's most important themes in the novel.


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Chapter 7 Quotes

“But before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same for you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he has guests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I’ll tell you why, Hazara. Because to him, you’re nothing but an ugly pet…”

“Amir agha and I are friends,” Hassan said.

Related Characters: Hassan (speaker), Assef (speaker), Amir
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the wealthy, sadistic Assef taunts Hassan, who has just found the tournament's last kite and is trying to bring it back to Amir. Assef not only racistly scorns Hassan because Hassan is a Hazara, but also tries to undercut Hassan's relationship with Amir. Assef suggests that Amir doesn't really consider Hassan to be his friend. Though Hassan stoutly defends Amir, the tragic part of this scene is that Assef is partly right—Amir is incredibly close to Hassan, but still always considers himself somehow separate from and superior to Hassan, and would be ashamed to openly declare himself "friends" with his Hazara servant. This is the root of betrayal, as Amir will go on to abandon Hassan as Assef rapes him—partly because Amir is afraid, but partly because society has always taught Amir to see Hassan as inferior to himself.

In the end, I ran.

I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me… I actually aspired to cowardice, because the alternative, the real reason I was running, was that Assef was right: Nothing was free in this world. Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba. Was it a fair price? The answer floated to my conscious mind before I could thwart it: He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Baba, Hassan, Assef
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the most crucial scenes in the book, as Amir abandons Hassan to be raped by Assef. Not only is Amir essentially betraying his best friend and brother-figure, a boy who is totally loyal and devoted to him, but he is also doing so in a selfish and almost premeditated way. Amir is afraid of being beaten up or mocked by Assef, certainly, but more than that Amir decides in this moment that he is willing to abandon Hassan to violence and rape in order to bring back the kite and impress Baba. Amir basically sacrifices his relationship with his friend for the sake of his relationship with his father—betraying Hassan as a part of earning Baba's love.

Another element of this scene is how social divisions and prejudice allow Amir to justify his decision to himself. Because Hassan is a Hazara, he is seen by many Pashtuns as inferior, and even as less than human. Taking this prejudiced view (which Amir doesn't really believe in his heart) would allow Amir to feel a little less guilt for his actions—if the person he's betraying isn't really a person, then it isn't really a betrayal.

Chapter 8 Quotes

I thought about Hassan’s dream, the one about us swimming in the lake. There is no monster, he’d said, just water. Except he’d been wrong about that. There was a monster in the lake… I was that monster.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan
Related Symbols: The Monster in the Lake
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has just betrayed Hassan, abandoning him to be raped by Assef. Now Amir remembers a dream about a lake monster that Hassan claimed to have had the night before the kite tournament. At the time, Amir suspected that Hassan told him about the dream to comfort him, but now Amir finds himself thinking about the dream again, and considers himself to be the monster in the lake that Hassan dreamed about. Amir feels so guilty about what he has done, and simultaneously so afraid of admitting it, that he feels he has become something monstrous and grotesque. The nature of his betrayal, as well—a scene involving violence and rape—also seems especially inhuman.

Chapter 9 Quotes

I flinched, like I’d been slapped… Then I understood: This was Hassan’s final sacrifice for me… And that led to another understanding: Hassan knew. He knew I’d seen everything in that alley, that I’d stood there and done nothing. He knew I had betrayed him and yet he was rescuing me once again, maybe for the last time.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote takes place just after Amir has gotten Hassan falsely accused of stealing money and a watch. Baba confronts Hassan and asks him directly whether or not he took the money. Hassan, though obviously aware of what Amir has done, immediately admits to the crime, and Amir is shocked. In this moment Amir realizes that Hassan also knows that Amir saw him being held down and raped, and did nothing. Instead of being angry, Hassan has only proven his devotion by seemingly forgiving Amir and now sacrificing himself for Amir's sake yet again. Amir betrays Hassan for the second time (the first being abandoning him to be raped), and with more premeditation this time, but Hassan's only response is to meekly accept the punishment he doesn't deserve.

Chapter 10 Quotes

In the morning, Jalaluddin… would probably think we’d gone out for a stroll or a drive. We hadn’t told him. You couldn’t trust anyone in Kabul anymore – for a fee or under threat, people told on each other, neighbor on neighbor, child on parent, brother on brother, servant on master, friend on friend.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker)
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point the novel shifts from the personal story of Amir and Hassan to a larger political scale, as huge events affect Afghanistan and thus the lives of Hosseini's characters. Right now Amir and Baba are fleeing their house because of the political turmoil—Afghanistan has been taken over by a Communist regime, and Russian soldiers have invaded the country. The theme of betrayal is no longer just a personal one relating to Amir, but now seems to be a part of the very consciousness of the war-torn country—violence is everywhere, no one trusts each other, and neighbors betray neighbors for the sake of their own safety. Likewise, the theme of violence and rape now broadens to the national scale, most obviously because of the war and violence tearing Afghanistan apart, but also because the country's violation by external Soviet forces constitutes its own kind of "rape."

Chapter 11 Quotes

Long before the Roussi army marched into Afghanistan, long before villages were burned and schools destroyed… Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts.
America was different. America was a river, roaring along, unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Hassan
Related Symbols: The Cleft Lip
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir and Baba have now left Afghanistan and moved to America, driven away from their home by violence and Soviet rule. While Baba is distraught at having to leave his beloved home, Amir feels almost relieved to be away from the place where reminders of his past betrayals (abandoning Hassan to be raped, and then framing Hassan for theft) are everywhere. Once again Hassan is associated with his cleft lip (harelip), which at this point is a symbol of a lost, happier past. Amir is still consumed by guilt and self-hatred for his betrayals, and so he is eager to forget the past and try to lose himself in the strange, overwhelming new world of America and its fast-paced society.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“The war is over, Hassan,” I said. “There’s going to be peace, Inshallah, and happiness and calm. No more rockets, no more killing, no more funerals!” But he just turned off the radio and asked if he could get me anything before he went to bed.
A few weeks later, the Taliban banned kite fighting. And two years later, in 1998, they massacred the Hazaras in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Related Characters: Rahim Khan (speaker), Hassan
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes from Rahim Khan's explanation of his own past, which he is describing to Amir in Pakistan. Rahim Khan found Hassan and invited him (along with Hassan's wife and son) to come live with him in Kabul. At this point the Soviet-Afghan War was raging, and Kabul was a very dangerous place to be. The Taliban (an Islamic fundamentalist group) finally drove out the Soviet forces, and many Afghans (like Rahim Khan, here) felt hopeful that peace would come at last. Instead, the Taliban began a reign of terror, enforcing their rigid interpretation of Sharia (Islamic) law through violence and terrorism. Hassan, a Hazara (an ethnic minority), rightfully recognizes that the Taliban won't make things better at all—especially for Hazaras, who are Shi'a Muslims, while the Taliban are Sunni. Indeed, the Taliban went on to slaughter thousands of Hazaras, as Rahim Khan sadly notes here.

This tragic passage is a clear condemnation of the war that has ravaged Afghanistan for decades, and it also continues the theme of violence and rape on a political scale. The first part of the book dealt mostly with this subject on a personal level, focusing on Assef's rape of Hassan. In the novel's second part, however, this theme expands and Hosseini connects the idea of rape to Afghanistan itself, as the country is violently violated by external forces like the Soviets and the Taliban. This idea is made even more poignant by Hosseini's mention of kite fighting. Kites symbolized Amir and Hassan's happy childhood days, then they also became associated with Hassan's rape, and now their absence represents the Taliban's brutal rule.

Chapter 19 Quotes

He pointed to an old man dressed in ragged clothes trudging down a dirt path, a large burlap sack filled with scrub grass tied to his back. “That’s the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That’s the Afghanistan I know. You? You’ve always been a tourist here, you just didn’t know it.”

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Farid (speaker)
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has finally returned to Afghanistan, and he feels like a stranger in his own country. He makes a remark stating this to his driver, a man named Farid, and Farid only scoffs. Farid criticizes Amir for his privileged upbringing, and suggests that Amir never knew the real Afghanistan—he feels like a tourist now because he's always been a tourist in Afghanistan. Farid then points out this random stranger, an extremely poor old man trudging down the road, as a symbol of the "real" Afghanistan.

It's impossible to know someone else's experience, of course, or to judge what makes someone a "real" citizen of anywhere, but Farid also has a point in his bitter accusation. Amir did live apart from the majority of the country, and his experiences growing up were vastly different from most Afghans. For him, all the violence and war seems like a huge disruption, but for those who grew up poor and dissatisfied, it's almost a logical continuation of an already-bad situation. Amir has always had the privilege of being able to avoid or look away from poverty and violence (and even to move to an entirely different continent), while most Afghans like Farid cannot.

Chapter 22 Quotes

What was the old saying about the bad penny? My past was like that, always turning up. His name rose from the deep and I didn’t want to say it, as if uttering it might conjure him. But he was already here, in the flesh, sitting less than ten feet from me, after all these years. His name escaped my lips: “Assef.”

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Assef
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir is now facing a violent, pedophilic Taliban leader, and is hoping to rescue Sohrab, Hassan's son. Earlier this same day Amir watched the Taliban leader preside over an execution, and now the leader reveals his identity—it's Assef, the brutal, privileged boy who threatened Amir and raped Hassan when they were all younger. This immediately brings up memories of Assef's sadistic tendencies, and shows that his role with the Taliban has given him free reign to commit whatever violent atrocities he wants to without facing any consequences. It also connects to the novel's idea of the past and memory as constantly recurring in the present. Amir has lived in America for decades, and has built a life for himself entirely separate from his past, but now it's as if he's facing an echo of the same situation he faced as a boy—being threatened by Assef, and trying to defend (and now, redeem himself to) Hassan, or in this case Sohrab, Hassan's son. Time seems almost cyclical in the Kite Runner, and nothing ever really goes away or is forgotten.

Another rib snapped, this time lower. What was so funny was that, for the first time since the winter of 1975, I felt at peace. I laughed because I saw that, in some hidden nook in the corner of my mind, I’d even been looking forward to this… My body was broken – just how badly I wouldn’t find out until later – but I felt healed.

Related Characters: Amir (speaker)
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has refused to leave without Sohrab, and now Assef is attacking Amir. Assef has his brass knuckles on, and Amir is unarmed, so it's hardly a fair fight (also Amir has been living comfortably in America while Assef has been fighting and murdering in Afghanistan). This scene is so significant because it is essentially the conclusion of two scenes from decades earlier—both of Amir and Hassan's encounters with Assef, the first being when Hassan frightened Assef away with his slingshot, and the second being when Amir watched Assef rape Hassan and did nothing. For Amir, this beating feels like relief, and like redemption—as if he's finally experiencing what would have happened had he intervened to save Hassan from Assef so many years before. The past is ever-recurring in the present, and this just feels like a logical continuation of Amir's experiences with Assef. The brutal beating doesn't erase Amir's past sins, but it is at least a cleansing kind of suffering, as Amir feels he is finally being punished for the sins he's "gotten away with" for years.

Chapter 25 Quotes

“Sohrab, I can’t give you your old life back, I wish to God I could. But I can take you with me. That was what I was coming in the bathroom to tell you. You have a visa to go to America, to live with me and my wife. It’s true. I promise.”

Related Characters: Amir (speaker), Sohrab
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:

Amir has rescued Sohrab and offered to adopt him and take him back to America, but then Amir faced a major setback and told Sohrab this might be impossible. Sohrab then tried to kill himself, and Amir found him in a bloody bathtub. Sohrab survived, and is now healing up, but he seems to have lost whatever spark of hope he had in him, and soon he stops speaking altogether. Here Amir reaffirms his promise that he will take Sohrab with him to America—even if Sohrab himself seems to have no opinion on the matter. Amir has come to see Sohrab as a son-figure, and also as a way for him to somehow redeem himself or bring good out of his past sins and betrayals. He did not help Hassan when he was raped, but now Amir can help Hassan's son, and he works with a passion that would not have been there had not Amir felt so guilty and driven to redeem himself.